You Can't Lose Customers or Salespeople - 2 Secrets to Their Retention

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 06, 2022 @ 11:07 AM

wading

As we wade deeper into recession, you will certainly agree that there are two things you must not lose:

  • Customers/Clients
  • Good/Great Salespeople

I conducted a Google search for "why salespeople quit their jobs" and was surprised to find more than 6 million results for that query!  The first page of results was filled with self-serving articles from companies like Gong (artificial intelligence for digital prospecting), Hubspot (marketing platform) and more urging you to leverage their platforms so that you don't have to rely on salespeople.

I also found a pattern that was similar to last month's search for "top sales blogs" as part of my research for the article, The Top 12 Sales Blogs of 2022 That Make You Think and Sell More.  There were lots of articles that had the top 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 reasons why salespeople leave or quit their jobs.  Most of those lists were simply subsets of other lists and the reasons included things like compensation, morale, workload, changing quotas, culture, toxic management, the job was misrepresented, too much pressure and lack of growth opportunity. While there were no surprises to these lists of reasons, I think there is a more pervasive reason that is not represented on the lists created by marketers and recruiters:

Sales Selection. 

Companies are still routinely selecting the wrong salespeople and the wrong salespeople are the ones that often leave.  Period.  Sales and HR leaders still make hiring decisions by relying on resumes, how someone interviews and gut feel, and while all three of those criteria have their place, a customizable, sales-specific, accurate and predictive assessment that measures capabilities in all 21 Sales Core Competencies is the difference maker.  The right sales-specific assessment will weed out sales candidates who lack the required skill set for the role, and identify the best candidates to consider for the role.  When you hire salespeople that meet and exceed expectations and quotas, the previously mentioned factors generally cease to exist.  Hire salespeople and focus on fit for the role.

A recession makes it more difficult to sell new customers, new projects and new products and services so you can not lose customers right now.  Period.  Most people believe that salespeople are the differentiators that assure customer retention but the reality is that it's customer service that plays the biggest role.  Just think about the customer service you have personally received over the past 2-3 years and how horrible and unacceptable most of it has been.  When you have the rare good experience you not only don't want to leave that company, it has nothing to do with price. It has everything to do with how the company and their CSRs treat you and solve your problem.

Finally, some advice in advance of unfavorable selling conditions.  I've sold and/or consulted through recessions dating back to the 80's!  Most, especially the economic crisis of 2008/9, caught companies by surprise and nobody saw a pandemic coming.  Most companies did not fare very well during the various economic crises because they hunkered down and tried to wait it out.  That wasn't a very good strategy.  Some companies actually grew during the down-time!  They sought out help at the first sign, right-sized their sales teams, invested in sales process, training and coaching and were clearly the exceptions to the rule.  They thrived while most companies lost ground.

Hire salespeople when your instinct is to let people go.  Invest in CSRs and make sure they will go out of their way to make customers happy.  Be proactive and aggressive in getting your sales team the help they need to sell when prospects don't want to meet or spend money, yet have more choices from increased competition with most focusing on lowering prices to win the business.  If your sales team is well trained, none of that will matter and they will continue to sell at your desired margins.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, assessments, selling in the recession, selling value

The Recession is Here - How to Take Advantage and Prepare Your Sales Team

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 31, 2022 @ 07:05 AM

crash-landing

You boarded your plane, got seated, the plane pulled away from the gate and you fell asleep.  Later, a hard landing woke you and you wondered, "Are we already there?"  Yes you are and you slept through the entire flight.

The same thing is happening with the economy.  While you were sleeping, distracted by Russia invading Ukraine, baby formula shortages, off-the-chart gas prices, a migrant surge across the southern border, mass shootings, supply-chain shortages, and runaway inflation, the recession crash-landed and it's here.   

The two biggest tell-tale signs are new home sales were 100,000 or so units below expectations for April, and the first of many interest rate hikes have been enacted. And the biggest sign is that government officials continue to tell us that there is nothing to see here, the economy is booming and there will be a soft landing from inflation.  Sure.

While I'm citing events in the United States, there is no doubt that this will be a global recession.

So what must you do to prepare your sales team and how can you leverage the effects of a recession?

You'll know the recession is real when in the next 90 days, sometime between now and the end of August 2022, the first domino falls and a major corporation announces they will layoff thousands of workers.  Others are sure to follow.  Then come the spending freezes.  This trickles down to mid-size and small businesses and while this is taking place, consumer confidence plunges, people stop buying things, which reinforces the decision to stop corporate spending and vindicates them for the layoffs.  We're gonna get clobbered!

You can leverage all of this by hiring salespeople.  That's right.  Resist the urge to layoff salespeople and instead, take advantage of what will finally be a surplus of good to great salespeople.  They have been in very short supply for several years and this will be one positive consequence of a recession.  Gobble them up, upgrade and smart-size your team and use OMG's Smart-Sizing tool as part of a sales team evaluation. Use OMG's sales candidate assessments to distinguish the sales winners from the imposters because past success is NOT a good predictor of future success in sales. You should already know that from experience otherwise your track record would be better and all of your salespeople would be meeting or exceeding quotas.

You must prepare your salespeople so they can convince people who are on a spending freeze to spend money despite the freeze.  This REQUIRES that they be effective at calling on, reaching and engaging actual decision makers as they are the only people who can override the spending freeze.  In addition to developing their skills at engaging decision makers, they must be equally effective at using a consultative approach, selling value and using a sales process optimized for a value-based, consultative approach.  Why consultative?  Selling value doesn't work well outside of a consultative approach.  Not only that, but salespeople struggle to achieve differentiation outside of a consultative approach.

What could go wrong?

OMG has evaluated and assessed more than 2.2 million salespeople and the data shows that taking a consultative approach is where salespeople are LEAST effective.

As you can see, only 11% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength, only 28% have reaching decision makers as a strength and only 31% have selling value as a strength.  But it's worse than that.  Weak salespeople make up 50% of the sales population.  Weak salespeople don't sell this way!  The next graphic isolates weak salespeople - the bottom 50% - only.

Only 1% of weak salespeople (half of your sales team!) have Consultative Selling as a strength, only 10% have reaching decision makers as a strength, and only 4% have selling value as a strength.

This is why half of your salespeople don't hit quota!  But over the past several years they have gotten by because they have been in order-taking mode.  With demand dropping like a rock and order-taking going away what will you do?  These are the five steps you should take.

1) Evaluate Your Sales Team  to determine who will be part of your future and who was part of your past.  Determine the exact competencies in which they will require training and coaching.  Better understand where the bottlenecks are and what it will take to increase your win rate. 

2) Assess Sales Candidates as you hire better salespeople.

or Request Information

3) Customize and Optimize your Sales Process for a Consultative Approach

4) Get your sales managers trained and coached to be effective and consistent at coaching up their salespeople

5) Get your sales team trained to hunt decision makers, take a consultative approach, and sell value.

The economy might make a crash landing but there is no reason you or your sales team need to do the same.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, selling in the recession, sales candidate assessment, selling value, sales team evaluation

Why You Will Finally Pay the Price of Not Selling Value

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 @ 23:03 PM

recession-1

Given the current circumstances - a Global Pandemic and an economy where so many industries have been shut down or compromised - selling value will be more important than ever.  

The result of selling value is that you are able to win the business despite not having the best price. But when we talk about selling value, what does it really mean?

One sales expert who reached out to me last week was worried that when we are focusing on the Value Selling Competency, uninformed salespeople interpret that as an invitation to present the company's value proposition.  They see it as an opportunity to show and tell and talk about capabilities.  He's right.  Most salespeople will seize on an opportunity to share what they know because it is so much easier than asking lots of tough, timely questions.  Let's take a look at the science.  

Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated or assessed 1,961,459 salespeople.  In the table below, you can see the percentage of salespeople who are strong in 3 Sales Core Competencies, as well as Sales DNA (average score of the 6 competencies that make up Sales DNA).  All of these impact one's ability to Sell Value and are presented below sorted by various groups of salespeople. 

Group

Selling
Value

Sales
Process
Consultative
Selling
Sales DNA
All Salespeople 41% 45% 15% 28%
Top 5% of All Salespeople 97% 85% 60% 100%
Less Than 2 Years Experience 6% 29% 6% 11%
More Than 10 Years Experience 53% 53% 20% 37%
Bottom 50% of All Salespeople 11% 27% 3% 1%

This isn't a pretty picture because it basically shows that except for the top 5%, most salespeople suck at selling value.

There are four reasons for this:

  • They aren't following or using a sales process that supports Value Selling - only 45% of all salespeople have Sales Process as a strength.
  • They aren't using a consultative approach and value selling won't work without one - only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.
  • Their Sales DNA doesn't support consultative or value selling - only 28% of all salespeople have Sales DNA as a strength
  • The company hasn't been decisive about not discounting - it sends conflicting messages.

You can't really get salespeople to properly and effectively sell value until they have been trained on sales process, consultative selling and been coached up on Sales DNA.

Circling back to the sales consultant who reached out last week, I suggested that selling value uses a consultative approach where:

  • The consequences of the problem are monetized or quantified and the solution is a fraction of the cost.
  • The salesperson, as a result of their care, concern and expertise, becomes the value.
  • The salesperson is valued as a trusted advisor compared to competitors who are mostly viewed as vendors.

Selling value will help your company navigate the economic ripple effect from the Coronavirus.  You'll not only continue to generate revenue,  you'll be able to maintain your margins too.

I've referenced only 3 (plus Sales DNA) of the 21 Sales Core Competencies in this article.  You can view the data on all 21 Sales Core Competencies and even see how your sales team compares here.

Comments?  Leave them in the LinkedIn discussion of this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales force evaluation, selling in the recession, coronavirus

3 Steps You Must Take Today to Save Your Company From This Economic Downturn

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 12, 2020 @ 11:03 AM

3-steps

You know the stories of the Three Stooges, The Three Little Pigs, The Three Bears, and baseball fans have just heard about The Three Batter Minimum (how stupid!).  We're not going to discuss any of those threes today but we will talk about the three things companies must do, right now, in this quickly disintegrating economy, to drive revenue.

First, I'll share my Three Rants.

In the past couple of weeks, I recorded three, very powerful, very important and very relevant 2-minute video rants.

Rant #1 - Less is More So Don't Talk So Much

Rant #2 - What's Wrong with Value Propositions and Elevator Pitches

Rant #3 - Why You Can't Wait Another Day to Change the Way You Sell

With those three rants digested, let's discuss business  The economy is in trouble - not forever, but for now - and things will unravel in this order.

  • Large companies will enact spending freezes, stop issuing PO's and hold up payments on orders in progress
  • Those spending freezes will trickle down through the shipping industry, the suppliers that sell to large companies and those firms who sell to them
  • The consequences of bullets 1 and 2 will quickly hit consumers in the form of layoffs

Salespeople, who just yesterday were crushing their numbers, won't.  Those who were missing quotas will be unable to sell anything.  Transactional selling (why you should buy it from us/me instead of them) will stop working all together.  Consultative Selling (why you should buy this despite the lack of funding) is the only approach that will work at all.  

Here's the problem with that.  According to Objective Management Group (OMG) and their data from the evaluations and assessments of 1,958,990 salespeople, only 15% of all salespeople have Consultative Selling as a strength.  And that number is misleading because most of those 15% make up the top 5% of all salespeople.  60% of the top 5% have Consultative Selling as a strength but only 3% of the bottom half of all salespeople do.  And bad news, most of your salespeople are in the bottom 50%!

There are three things you must absolutely do, right now, today, to have any chance of getting out in front of what's coming.

1.  Have OMG evaluate your sales force.  While the findings and insights are incredible, the specific findings and insights that should be important today are:

  1. How to make the right decisions to right-size or down-size your sales organization.  Who is most well-suited to grow the business in each of your selling roles and who isn't?
  2. How big is the gap that your salespeople must overcome to become proficient at a sales process that supports both consultative and value based selling, who will be able to make the transition, how long will it take, and how much training and coaching will be required?
  3. How big is the gap that your sales managers must overcome to become proficient at sales coaching to support those salespeople?

There are dozens of other relevant, useful and important insights and findings but those are the three that you must have the answers for today.

2. Optimize your Sales Infrastructure. 

  1. Your sales process must be optimized to support this kind of selling
  2. The sales process must be milestone-centric and it must build upon itself. 
  3. Eliminate the dead wood on the sales force - less is more.  
  4. Replace them with great salespeople who will suddenly be available but make sure you use OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment to select them.  Now is not the time to lose 8-12 months because you value gut instinct over science!
  5. Now is the time to dump the CRM tool your salespeople refuse to live in (bye-bye salesforce-dot-com) and replace it with one that integrates your optimized sales process and pipeline, has built-in playbooks and focuses on sales opportunities instead of data entry (hello Membrain.com.  
  6. Eliminate unnecessary layers of management and right-size the reporting structure.  Ideal=6-8 reps reporting to a sales manager and 3-5 sales managers reporting to a Regional sales manager.

3. Train, Train, Train, Drill, Drill, Drill, Coach, Coach, Coach

  1. Get the proper sales management training that will turn your sales managers into coaching machines
  2. Get the proper sales training that will turn your salespeople into consultative sellers
  3. Run daily drills so that they can practice on someone other than their prospects!

You really can get out in front of this and continue to drive revenue if your salespeople can effectively side-step the resistance, create urgency, properly differentiate, sell value instead of price, and not become discouraged over all of the rejection they will be facing in the coming months.

Or you can put your head in the sand, believe that what worked last month will work next month, and wait until your cash flow is upside down and by then it will be too late.

Your choice.

Comments?  Leave them on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, selling in the recession

A Call to Action for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 @ 11:01 AM

Al Gore has become more famous for his call to action against global warming than he ever was as Vice President of the United States.

Pope John Paul II was noted for his "stand up for life" call to action.

The charities that you support have calls to action that either inspire you or embarass you into giving.

Yesterday, Barack Obama included a call to action in his inaugural speech.

In this week's Baseline Selling Tip, I redirected the President's call to pick yourself up and dust yourself off - to your salespeople. It might not be what they want to hear, but it sure is what they need to hear.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales motivation, call to action, Economy, Obama, selling in the recession

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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